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The classic LP from 1987 in deluxe remastered form...,
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This review is from: Music for the Masses [Hybrid SACD + DVD] (Audio CD)
The title of Depeche Mode's album of Autumn 1987 was meant to be ironic with their appeal to the masses apparently on the wane/in stasis. That this was the LP that broke them in the US (see the film '101')was bizarre - perhaps the title was self-fullfilling prophecy? Recorded in Denmark, this advanced a little on the approach of 'Black Celebration'- the sampling approach from 'Construction Time Again' had fulfilled itself on 'B.C.' and pretty much concluded that approach. It's still here to a degree - the intro to 'Behind the Wheel' or the groans on 'I Want You Now' - but the LP is more base-electronic music with emphasis on the guitar Martin Gore had been openly playing since the single release of 'Strangelove' earlier in 87.
'Music for the Masses' is part of the trio of Mode reissues/remasters - like 'Speak & Spell' and 'Violator' it comes in this two disc edition with a wealth of related bonus tracks, an audio sequence, audio DVD and related embelishments. Both this and 'Violator' involve Flood and former Mode-member Alan Wilder in the reissue - which is about right, Wilder was a key part of the Mode so the project clearly warrants his input. The bonus tracks include the excellent instrumentals 'Stjarna' and 'Agent Orange' - plus Alan Wilder playing 'Moonlight Sonata' for the import only single of 'Little 15'! The album proper is all that's required truthfully - many Mode fans will have the b-sides and remixes on the remix-compilations of a year or so ago and the three box-sets put out in the 90s.
'Masses' opens on 'Never Let Me Down Again', a pulsing gloomy electronic anthem that would later be sampled by Third Bass - this scraped into the top 30 in the UK, but has become one of their key moments in the Mode's concerts - the crowd mimicking the arm-waving shown in '101.' Gore's songwriting is perfect here, he could be writing about drugs or sex (possibly both) and offers up such fantastic nonsense "promise me we're as safe as houses as long as I remember whose wearing the trousers"!!! 'The Things You Said' is a gorgeus synth-ballad which Gore sings, absolute pop perfection and proof that the Mode didn't require filler anymore. 'Strangelove' is re-recorded, less metallic and 'Question of Time/Something to Do-esque like the single version and with a groove at the beginning that resembles Cameo's 'Word Up'! (a hidden violin take of 'Strangelove' was at the end of the tape I had of this - check after 'Pimpf' to see if that's still here!).
The album is wonderfully sequenced, like 'Black Celebration' the majority of the tracks flow into one another - the moans at the start of 'Sacred' kick in and take us into a Mode song that really ought to find its way back into a live-set (only played on the 'Masses' tour). 'Little 15' is perhaps the most cliched moment of the LP, taking the kind of Lolita-in-Peril material of 'A Question of Time' and placing it in a style not far from 86's 'Dressed in Black' - slightly bombastic semi-classical alluding stuff (Wilder's work with Recoil also showed the Philip Glass side of things!). The second half of the LP opens with 'Behind the Wheel' which remains a great song, though was probably superior in the remixed version released as a single in early '88.
Gore's second contribution is 'I Want You Now', which sounds rather sexual and fits somewhere between Prince's filthier moments ('Orgasm' from 'Come', most of 'The Black Album') and Tricky - who has covered the Mode. 'To Have and To Hold' is a dark gothic dirge with a gothic sense of menace - it's nice when it gives way to the fantastic 'Nothing.' 'Nothing' is another classic pop song written by Gore that like 'Sacred' was only played on the 'Masses' tour - it even has that 'People are People' drum-thing at the end that recurred in 1986's 'New Dress'! The LP concludes on 'Pimpf', the Philip Glass-influenced instrumental used as the intro for the tour and the flipside of the 'Strangelove'-single.
'Music for the Masses' is one of the Mode's key albums and wipes the floor with New Order's patchy 'Brotherhood'- which for some reason it is often compared to! I'd say this, 'Black Celebration' and 'Violator' are the ones you really need - a wlecome reissue of a classic LP and part of the soundtrack to my late 80s which also included 'Doolittle', 'Sign'O'the Times', 'Technique', 'Saint Julian', 'Blue Bell Knoll', 'Strangeways, Here We Come', 'Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me', 'Green', 'Isn't Anything', 'The Stone Roses', 'Hunkpapa', 'Three Feet High & Rising' and 'Ultra Vivid Scene.'
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 21 Apr 2010 09:34:23 BDT
Peter John Brown says:
It's a good review of the album, but if you're looking for a review of his disc as a SACD - it's worthless.
Posted on 15 Oct 2010 22:14:49 BDT
Martin Gray says:
I've never come across a review that compares this album with New Order's (underrated and patchily-produced, more like) Brotherhood!! The two cannot be compared. One shows the Mode at the peak of their powers prior to the incredible reinvention/refinement exercise that was the hugely successful Violator, and the other sees New Order exhibiting the two distinct sides of their personality: the album is split into a 'rock' side and a 'sequencer' side - and as such it works in its own quite wonderful way - before their own high watermark that was Technique a couple of years later (then it was downhill for them from that point, sadly...)
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